CHAPEL HILL, N.C. — Consumers are looking to save money by cooking from scratch, a new survey shows.
It could be good news for supermarket operators that more than half (59%) of respondents in the Dollars & Consumer Sense survey, conducted by Yankelovich Partners, said they're cooking from scratch to save money rather than buying food already prepared.
Not surprisingly, a higher percentage of women (63%) said they're cooking from scratch to save money. That compares with 54% of male respondents.
The figures also differed in tandem with respondents' level of anxiety about the economy. Only 39% who said they had no anxiety about the economy said they'd take to from-scratch cooking. That compares with 58% who said they felt moderate anxiety, 67% who said they had a high level of anxiety and 71% with severe anxiety.
“That [the study's results] presents a double-edged sword for supermarkets, because many are in the prepared foods business as well,” said Peter Rose, partner in Yankelovich.
But Rose also pointed out that other recent research his company has conducted shows that people are cooking from scratch for a variety of reasons.
“We know that more consumers are interested in expressing themselves through cooking. It is not just a function of the economy,” Rose said.
“In our annual Monitor survey this year, 44% said they express themselves through cooking from scratch. In 2003, just 36% said that.”
Women are more likely to express themselves through cooking, and that percentage has grown from 46% in 2003 to 54% in the 2007 Monitor survey. The percentage of men who said they express themselves through cooking grew from 24% in 2003 to 33% in 2007.
Rose pointed out that consumers are finding that cooking from scratch can be fun. They see it as a creative outlet, a way to relax, entertain, bond with people, as well as maybe save some money, he said.
“I think there's a big opportunity for supermarkets, especially during grilling season, to say, ‘You can do it.’
“They could tell customers they can get pretty close to a restaurant-quality meal if they buy that steak.”
No matter how tough the economy gets, most respondents remain unwilling to trade off on service and quality, the Yankelovich study showed.
In fact, respondents stated that they would not shop at a store just because it had low prices, and they would not shop at a store at which they'd had a bad experience.
“Nobody is willing to buy on the cheap, sacrificing quality,” Rose told SN. “They'll only do that if all other economizing measures fail.”
For this study, the first one of this kind that Yankelovich has done, researchers developed questions related to the economy. It focused on consumers' level of concern about the economy, and what trade-offs they were willing to make.
More women than men were willing to trade off “fancy cuts of meat.” Men who are involved in cooking or grilling are not apt to trade off quality.
“Actually, it all has to do with value,” Rose said, adding that higher quality could be seen as value.
“The challenge [for retailers and other marketers] in this economy is to move a product out of the ‘indulgence’ category and into the ‘necessity’ category.”